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Body of Montana hiker found under rocks nearly 2 months after she vanished

Authorities believe Tatum Morell, 23, was climbing Whitetail Peak "when she was caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries."
Rescuers recovered the body of missing hiker Tatum Morell from a remote region of Whitetail Peak, Mont., on Saturday.
Rescuers recovered the body of missing hiker Tatum Morell from a remote region of Whitetail Peak, Mont., on Saturday.Red Lodge Fire Rescue

The body of a Montana hiker was found underneath a pile of rocks in the Beartooth Mountains over the weekend, ending a nearly two-month search.

Tatum Morell, 23, was hiking alone when she disappeared in early July. Authorities believe she was climbing Whitetail Peak "when she was caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries."

"After almost two months of extensive search efforts, we are relieved that she is able to be returned to her family,” Red Lodge Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jon Trapp said in a statement Sunday. “The effort volunteers put into finding Tatum surpassed anything I’ve seen in my 17 years with Search and Rescue operations; it was absolutely incredible.”

The body was found Saturday by climbers. The fire station said in a Facebook post that the area where Morell was located had been searched numerous times, but "she was extremely difficult to find" because she was mostly buried under rocks.

Tatum Morell was caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries, authorities said.Carbon County Sheriff's Office

On Sunday, authorities were able to retrieve and transport Morell's body to the Red Lodge Airport, where her family had gathered.

"We could not be more grateful and thankful to all of the personnel and agencies that worked together in this effort to hopefully bring some peace and closure to the Morell family, and could not have carried out this effort without all of their assistance," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

The family has not publicly addressed the discovery. They released a statement in July after authorities determined that due to conditions and the terrain in the mountain it was unlikely Morell had survived.

"Tate was a fiercely independent, adventurous soul who loved the mountains," the family said at the time. "We find some solace in knowing she passed in a place she loved."

Morell, an engineering graduate student at Montana State University in Bozeman, was an avid and experienced hiker who would take trips with her family and by herself.

The fire station said it was her first trip to the Beartooths, and she planned on climbing five mountain peaks. She had backpacked into the area and camped at Shadow Lake on July 1. She contacted her family via an inReach satellite device that evening, according to the station.

The following morning, authorities believe she left her tent to summit a 12,000-foot peak but did not return.

The station said Morell had recently completed a similar trip in Gallatin County, Montana, climbing five peaks in five days.